John Mackiel is about to get his biggest check yet from the Omaha Public Schools: $1,011,068.90.
Almost all of that amount comes from a benefit that was set up years ago to ensure that he still accrued retirement funds, despite his high salary.
The large sum caught OPS officials off-guard, despite Mackiel announcing more than a year ago that he would retire.
A board committee was told of the payment in a closed session Monday, the same day the board approved the budget for the 2012-13 school year.
OPS spokesman Dave Patton said the district put $200,000 aside but didn't calculate until recently what the payout amount would be.
To cover the rest of the one-time payout, OPS moved $600,000 out of a contingency fund and another $200,000 out of the board's budget for purchased services.
“We became aware of some budget items that we did not sufficiently account for,” Dennis Pool, OPS's top finance administrator, said Monday.
Mackiel retired last month after 40 years with OPS, the last 15 as superintendent. In addition to the lump-sum payout, Mackiel will receive an OPS pension and will draw from an annuity the district had been paying into as a part of his contract. OPS had not provided those amounts by early Tuesday afternoon.
His superintendent peers also have received large payouts in recent years after spending their careers with the same district.
Former Bellevue schools Superintendent John Deegan got a buyout of $418,000 after 38 years with the district, the last 14 as its leader.
And when Jacquie Estee retired from Westside after 40 years with the district, she received a retirement bonus of $244,000, about $30,000 more than her $212,034 annual salary.
“The longevity was what made this unique,” Patton said of Mackiel's payment.
More than 90 percent — $924,875.97 — is from a retirement benefit detailed in Mackiel's 15-page contract. It calls for a one-time payout of the monthly benefits Mackiel would have received over 84 months.
The OPS board agreed to change his contract in 2004, when Mackiel was 55, because of Internal Revenue Service rules.
Federal law states that under traditional retirement plans, employees can't accrue salary-based benefits beyond a pay level of $250,000. The board agreed to set up a separate retirement benefit that would let Mackiel continue to accrue retirement money based on his full compensation, Patton said.
Mackiel was paid $413,607 during the 2010-11 school year and made a similar amount last school year. His base salary was $258,107.
The remainder of his million-dollar plus payout comes from the district buying back unused vacation days — $18,368.93 — and personal and sick days — $67,824.
Mackiel recently signed a four-year contract to teach in the College of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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